Friday Rant: An Uphill Battle with a Poor Supplier

Having just finished a cycling trip in the Dordogne region of France and tending to look at the world through supplier-colored glasses, I confirmed once again that your suppliers can either make you or break you.

Here's what I mean. My husband and I and another couple booked a trip with a cycling company in the U.S that specializes in cycling trips in France. Leading up to the trip, every interaction with the company was excellent and exceeded every expectation. We have gone on 3 other international cycling trips and had never encountered a company that was so attentive and responsive before the trip. They found us car rentals and hotels for before and after the trip. They answered every question and concern immediately. We were very impressed with this company. We arrived in France and dealt with their supplier who provided us with the bicycles. Then the trouble started. This guy showed up at the trip orientation 2 hours late. He then had us walk a mile to his auto repair shop to get the bikes. We were handed one pedal wrench for 4 people and told to get the pedals off the rental bikes and put our own on. The alleged "bike guy" had no idea how to fit us for bikes. He put our seats on wrong. And the bikes -- they redefined the term "pushing heavy metal". And the Dordogne ain't flat.

During the trip, one couple riding a tandem (bicycle for two) was sent to a tractor repair shop to get their broken bike fixed (and it was not repaired properly). Then, we found out later that most of our pumps for pumping up flat tires were broken when we came upon the tandem couple with a flat and their pump was broken (and 3 out of 4 of our pumps were also dysfunctional).

The hotels where we were lodged were wonderful. The experience before the trip was fabulous. Our expectations for the trip were very high. But the bike supplier -- well, he stunk. So our impression of this wonderful company was severely tarnished. They did an outstanding job with everything for this cycling trip except for the actual bicycles.

Lesson learned: one bad supplier can put your business at risk, especially when the supplier impacts your core competency.

Of course we will give this company constructive feedback. And hopefully they will find a supplier on the ground in France who actually knows something about bicycles. Not cars. Not tractors. But bicycles.

A good supplier makes you look great. A bad supplier has the potential to damage your company. And if you choose a bad supplier, as they say in France, bon courage.

- Sherry Gordon

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